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Hunger free goal will not be realised - Guyana agri minister

Published in Jamaica Gleaner, 6 Oct 2013

October 6, 2013

Plans by regional governments to make the Caribbean hunger-free by 2025 is unrealistic, declared Dr Leslie Ramsammay, Guyana's minister of agriculture.

Ramsammay told Friday's opening of the 2013 Caribbean Week of Agriculture that the ambitious goal will not be achieved because of the absence of a regional research agenda, which is unlikely to change any time soon.

"We cannot achieve those aspirations and those goals unless agriculture plays its role and without proper research we will not be able to do so and that is why that because we need to get off where we are and address the issue," he charged.

"Together our commitment to agriculture research represents less than 0.1 per cent of our GDP. We share that shame with the whole of the region, including Latin American. Cuba is about 0.7, Brazil at about 0.5 per cent of GDP; Argentina, Chile they made some efforts but in the Caribbean less than 0.1 per cent goes to research and we need to address those issues."

Pointing to the region's previous impressive record in agricultural research and development, he said the decline was linked to the closure of the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture, which was based in Trinidad. Since then the agencies that took over have failed to deliver on the mandate for increased production and productivity.

"One of the fall outs, one of the things we shouldn't be proud of is that with independence of sovereignty came the departure of an active research programme that was led by the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture. The research then became the responsibility of the University of the West Indies and then we established CARDI which took over the coordination role. I am not shy at saying that we have a poor agriculture capacity research in this region and need to change that paradigm," he told the audience at the Guyana International Conference Centre.

Noting that there were more Caribbean scientists engaged in agricultural research outside of the region, the agriculture minister called on policy makers to put research and development at the centre of development plans.